A barn built in 1426 and largely still the same to this day has been bought by English Heritage to ‘save it from neglect and decay’. The price was just £20,000 for the Grade 1 listed building.
Grade 1 Listing is the highest level of protection afforded by English Heritage which puts this barn in such lofty company as the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.
The building itself is located in Harmondsworth, Middlesex and has been described by Sir John Betjeman, revered poet and champion of British heritage, as the “Cathedral of Middlesex” owing to its nave like appearance.
The building is 60m long and 12m wide, with a structure that includes 13 large oak trusses set in stone blocks to support the roof. The masonry and timbers still bear the marks of the tradesmen who worked on them.
English Heritage was spurred into action by the deteriorating condition of the structure back in 2009. They issued an emergency works notice and, following a dispute over who should pay for the repairs, purchased the building to ensure its continuing good health.
It had actually been in use up to the 1970s, but acquisition by an offshore company in 2006 left it neglected and deteriorating. Purchase by English Heritage at the end of last year should ensure its continued survival, but at a maintenance cost per year much larger than the purchase price.
The building joins English Heritage’s national collection alongside the likes of Stonehenge and is a structure steeped in history having survived the plague, civil war, agricultural reform and urbanisation, as well as a flying bomb which levelled a nearby modern barn during WWII. The barn was in agricultural use for almost 700 years, most recently used by local farmer Roy Barwick in the early 1970s.
Michael Dunn, historic buildings inspector for the heritage agency, said the building was the best preserved and largest surviving medieval timber barn in England.
Chief Executive of English Heritage, Simon Thurley, is reported to have commented:
“Harmondsworth Barn is one of the greatest medieval buildings in Britain, built by the same skilled carpenters who worked on our magnificent medieval cathedrals. Its rescue is at the heart of what English Heritage does.”
The story has been of particular interest to many of the PropertySurveying network of Building Surveyors around the country. Many of our members specialise in old and historic buildings and are enthusiastic about their preservation. If you have a building older than 100 years old, you should always use a fully qualified specialist Chartered Surveyor for any building surveying works or if considering a purchase.
To find a suitable Independent Chartered Surveyor, click here.